Alarm bells are ringing inside hard right Liberal warrior Sophie Mirabella's Indi campaign as a popular local independent prepares to snag a significant proportion of the local vote and vault ahead of Labor in an Andrew Wilkie-style preference triumph.

A panicked email sent from deep inside the Mirabella camp to Liberal volunteers last week, obtained by Crikey, reveals her campaign team is gearing up for a pitched battle against rural independent Cathy McGowan in the northern Victorian seat, currently held by 9% and usually considered safe.

Realistically, McGowan is the most likely challenger to Mirabella's crown, with Labor, the Greens and Wodonga-based independent Jennifer Podesta all expected to preference her highly. McGowan also has the support of retiring New England independent and hung parliament hero Tony Windsor.